Coors Brewing Co. Vice Chairman-CEO Peter Coors and UDV North America CEO Charles Phillips offered support for the added self-regulatory step suggested by the FTC in a report issued Sept. 9 on the alcohol industry's enforcement of its own ad codes.
But even as they did, Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing Co., which outspend them vastly on advertising, maintained the FTC's main conclusion negated the need for additional steps.
"The FTC validated that industry self-regulation is working. Because beer advertising is already comprehensively reviewed and scrutinized, we see no value in adding additional layers to the review process," said Stephen Lambright, A-B group VP, in a statement.
In a company statement, Miller said it believed "third-party review of compliance is a replication of the current FTC compliance system, internal company reviews, TV network codes and applicable state and federal laws."
The FTC report requested by Congress suggested third-party review of the complaints about beer advertising would bolster the public's confidence in the codes and "demonstrate . . . that code compliance is a high priority and all members are held to reasonably consistent standards."
It also urged alcohol marketers to take steps to ensure that a greater portion of the audience seeing their broadcast ads are adult; limit ad placement in TV and movies with large youth audiences; and adopt a set of best practices that would be shared among all segments of the alcohol industry.
FTC officials expressed disappointment over the big brewers' reaction.
"It's very unfortunate that they would reject this out of hand, especially as quickly as they did," said Lee Peeler, FTC associate director of advertising practices.
"I think there are some very strong reasons why third-party review makes a lot of sense," he added.
"I have been an advocate of third-party review for some time," Mr. Coors said. "I think it's a good idea but it would have to be unbiased. We'd have to find someone acceptable to all with no attitude about the product."
Mr. Phillips, CEO of Diageo's American unit that combines United Distillers and Guinness, also embraced self-regulation.
"We are responsible advertisers and believe that voluntary third-party review will reinforce a foundation of trust with the American people that we are a responsible industry," he said.
OPEN TO NEW PROVISIONS
The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. issued a statement from president-CEO Peter Cressy saying it was "open to considering new provisions that would strengthen all beverage alcohol advertising codes."
John de Luca, president-CEO of the Wine Institute, also said he would not rule anything out.
"I like what I'm reading, but it would have to be very compelling case for [third-party review] for how it would enhance it," he said.
A spokesman for the National Consumers League said the group is hopeful the brewers will reconsider. The group's president also urged the companies to act.
"If the alcohol industry truly believes it is a responsible advertiser, then it has nothing to fear from independent third-party review," said league President